Wanderlust

March 11 2006

One of the FAQs I get is, "Don't you ever get tired of the travel?"  To which the answer is, mostly, no.  In fact, I worry sometimes that I have the opposite emotion -- that travelling is just a core part of my DNA.  To wit --
1) I got depressed yesterday when my body gave out after five cities and five hotels in five days.  After the LCTY event in Helsinki, I had to go back to the hotel and sleep for two hours, and was upset that I missed that time to go sightseeing.
2) I bought a copy of National Geographic Traveller magazine the other night, featuring an article about 28 things to see and do in New Zealand.  A momentary sadness and jealousy kicked in, as I realized that all I saw in my 16 hours in Wellington was an airport, a hotel, and a decent glass of white wine.

So the travel continues.  And having left Helsinki this morning, that's 48 countries visited (I did the math wrong the last time I said so).  At least one more on tap for next month.  And for the most part, I find it still to be constantly fascinating, interesting, and thought-provoking.  And am looking forward to more, both business and holidays (or both).  A lot ahead this year.

With all that as preface, here are some observations about my Nordics-in-five-days tour....

Things I liked:

  • That everyone -- EVERYONE -- is at least bi-lingual.  And wasn't snobby about it.
  • Wood floors in hotel rooms
  • Heated floors in hotel bathrooms (Hilton, Helsinki)
  • I love that brown goat's milk cheese in Oslo.  Is there someplace in the US to get it?
  • SAS, while handling the flight cancellation on Saturday very poorly, redeemed themselves by a) accommodating me on early flights almost every day, b) having great lounges, c) having in-flight wifi access on this flight, and d) putting windows in the lavatories.
  • The fast trains from both Stockholm Arlanda and Oslo Gardermoen airports
  • That credit/debit cards are accepted everywhere, without hassle
  • The incredible dinner on Monday at Restaurant René in the Hotel Ritz in Århus in their private dining room.  But not the cellar...next time.
  • Traveler's tip:get there early.  I was the first person to visit the Cathedral in Helsinki this morning -- and had the place to myself at 9:01 AM.  This has worked for me before in places like the Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China -- but you have to give up some sleep.
Things I didn't like:
  • Having to take taxis when I would have rather relied on public transport.
  • That the airport in Århus is 25+ miles away from the city, with a bus that runs infrequently as the only alternative to taxis.  I can understand Stockholm and Oslo airports being far outside the city, but AAR?  There's not exactly a dense urban area between the airport and city center.
  • Speaking of AAR, weird a) landing at a commercial airport without a single other plane on the tarmac and b) that SAS's customer service people go home at 10 PM, while there is still a flight that lands at 11:30 PM.  At least I got to file my missing baggage claim real-time..what happens for passengers on the late flight?  Sorry, go home, call us tomorrow to see if we have your bags?  In my case, it meant that my suitcase arrived at the airport at 11:30 PM but didn't leave for the hotel until 9 AM the next morning.
  • Why doesn't Copenhagen airport have an ATM inside the transit area?  And have wifi only in the transit area, not at the remote "A" domestic gates?
  • The tiny little trashcans/recycle bins in Scandic hotels.  I am all for recycling, but I just have stuff to throw out when I'm travelling...and the first Scandic I stayed in this week didn't have the bins labelled.
  • That it was really freakin' cold in March.  -14c in Helsinki upon arrival, and never more than -8.
  • That the mobile phone network in Denmark dropped my calls dozens of times.
  • Not getting a chance to meet Olaf Bjorklund.  Whatever happened to him?
  • SAS's branding strategy.  Can someone explain to me why they have Blue1, and Estonian Air, and Air Baltic, and Braathens (still mostly in its old livery), and and and...yet operate them all as essentially the same airline?  I was even aboard two SAS planes that featured a "Snowflake" livery.
  • Speaking of SAS, I'm embarrassed by the insensitivity displayed by my fellow Americans on this flight.  Hasn't their visit to Europe taught them that the cheese course is eaten after the main course, even if it is served on a  tray with the starter and salad?   (Update note: This is tongue-in-cheek.  While true, cheese is typically after dinner, I don't expect Americans to know it.  Heck, I didn't know it when I first started visiting Europe.  But they sure have some great cheeses)
Finally, thanks to all my hosts this week for making it as smooth as possible.  And thank you to all the customers and partners -- over 500 in all -- who turned out for the Nordic Lotusphere Comes to You events this week.  See you again!

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